Kiley Putnam

Need a New Fitbit Challenge? Find a Farmer!

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Wow! Recently, Mark Akins took 22,000 steps in one day.

Are you using an activity tracker like a Fitbit to move more in the new year?  Whether you’re an intense athlete, a busy mom, a farmer, or even a cow, you’ve got to get those steps in to meet your daily goals!

Wait a minute…a cow? You bet! We caught up with two farm families who joined the “Fitbit craze” and so have their cows!

Becky Akins calls Five Mile Farm in Lisbon, NY home. Becky and her husband Mark work alongside their grown children Ryan and Allison. In addition to the farm’s 500 milking cows, they raise 100 beef cattle a year, produce 150 gallons of maple syrup, and sell 1500 dozen sweet corn. 

That means they are moving a lot! Becky gave us the scoop!

MBTM: When did your family start using Fitbits?

BA: Our family purchased Fitbits in July 2015 as part of a health awareness initiative with AgriMark/Cabot Cheese. We all continue to track our steps and set personal goals

MBTM: What’s the average amount of steps taken for a day’s work on the farm?

BA: Ryan and Mark average 14,000 steps daily. Some days they have 5000 steps in before breakfast!

MBTM: So the cows have “Fitbits” too? What’s that all about?

BA: CowManager tags track the amount of time the cows spend eating, ruminating, sleeping, walking, high activity, and the cow’s temperature. This information is sent to a computer and viewed by our family, the herdsmen, veterinarians, and nutritionists.

MBTM: What are the most important things to monitor?

BA: Everything is important. How healthy our cows are is a priority to everyone on the farm. By monitoring daily habits of the cows, we can diagnose problems several days before they visually appear.

MBTM: How many cows have them?

BA: 300 cows have CowManager tags. About a week before a cow is due to have a calf, they receive their tracker.

MBTM: When did you get them for the cows?

BA: In July 2015 we got CowManager tags for our cows. This was the same time we got Fitbits for our family.

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Photo Courtesy: Cabot Creamery Co-operative

The Akins Family uses “earring style” activity trackers for their cows, but just like for people, there are several different activity trackers and styles to choose from!

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Ryan Akins and cows showing off their Fitbits! (Orange tag on cow’s ear)

untitled-design-21The Manning Farm in Swanton, Vermont uses trackers that fit on their cow’s ankles! We also caught up with the Manning family to learn about how they track their cow’s activity.

Manning Farms is home to Robert and Sandy Manning their son David, his children Rebecca, Nick, and Oliver, also grandchildren Ryland and Regan. It has been a family operation ever since it began with Robert’s grandfather, Gerald Griswold about a century ago. They have plenty to do with 700 cows (360 of which are milked) and 1,200 acres.

Rebecca Manning Howrigan gave us the scoop!

MBTM: What type of activity trackers do your cows use?

RH: GEA pedometers that fit around the ankle.

MBTM: What is the most important thing to monitor?

RH: It’s all important! We will monitor laying time by cow groups, as well as individual cows. It is very helpful used together with step count on individual cows. As you would expect with people, if a cow isn’t feeling well, she will not be walking as much and will be laying down more. My computer has an algorithm that will alert me when cows reach an “attention” thresh hold. 

Another important data point to look at is, how many times did an individual cow get up and down? I want a cow to eat a good meal and lay down for a lengthy period. If she is constantly up and down, it is a hint that she isn’t feeling well.

MBTM: What’s the average daily step count for your cows?

RH: The average steps for our cows is around 3,000.

See an example of some data from the Manning’s cows:

Cow # Age Steps
1650 6.5   4210
1687  6 3348
211   3 5240
4 3039

 

RHI got a Fitbit for Christmas!!! On my first day, I had already walked 6,600 steps before 9:00 a.m.! By the end of the day, I had over 20,000 steps! 

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Technology is pretty amazing! Will you use it to get moooving in 2018?

Kiley Putnam

Kiley Putnam is a Senior Communications Specialist concentrated in consumer marketing and communications for New England Dairy Promotion Board. Kiley is a Connecticut native, an ice cream fanatic, and loves connecting people to where their food comes from. In her spare time, Kiley enjoys hiking, skiing, and spending time with friends and family. She currently resides in Boston, MA. Sound like someone you want to get to know? Contact Kiley at kputnam@newenglanddairy.com